questions from readers

I recently received a question in the comments section of our podcast Personality Types in Personal Development:

“I never quite thought of the auxiliary function (the co-pilot) as growth state, or at least in those words, but moreso as implementer of the primary function (the driver), which at the end of the day is actually growth! Would you elaborate a bit more on how you see growth from the co-pilot standpoint? Do you see it as merely the implementer of the Driver or as something more, or a combination of the two?”

– Julian

the Car Model yet, please read this post for a more complete picture.>

In order to be a well-rounded person, we need to be able to do four things successfully:

1. We need to be able to get in touch with our ‘inner world’.
2. We need to be able to get ‘outer world’ feedback.


3. We need a way to take in new information.
4. We need a way to evaluate that information and make decisions.

If we’re missing any of those four things, we end up being lopsided. If we can’t get in touch with our inner world, we become overly reactionary to outside stimuli. If we’re out of touch with the ‘outer world’, then we ignore vital feedback that keeps us in touch with ‘reality’.

Similarly, if we don’t take in new information we become highly prejudice. And, alternatively, if we can’t evaluate new information to make decisions we do nothing but tread water.

Awesomely, our Driver and Co-Pilot processes help use perform all four, since each of 8 cognitive functions are either Extraverted or Introverted as well as being either info-gathering or decision-making.

If your Driver process is Introverted, your Co-Pilot will automatically be Extraverted (and vice versa). And if your Driver process gathers new information, then your Co-Pilot automatically evaluates to make decisions (and vice versa).



(If you use the graphic for reference, remember that all the Sensor and Intuitive processes learn new information and all of the Thinking and Feeling processes evaluate information to make decisions.)

This is why we call the combination of the Driver and Co-Pilot your ‘genius’ – you can’t be in your genius if you’re missing two necessary components of personality. The stronger your Co-Pilot process, the more balanced you become as a person and the more in your genius you are.

As an aside – It’s not uncommon for people to assume that if you’re, say, an Intuitive you need to focus more on your Sensory process, or if you’re a Feeler you need to become more Thinker. It feels like a common sense approach to becoming ‘balanced’. Unfortunately, this only ends up diluting the talents of your Driver and Co-Pilot.

It’s called the ‘cost of specialization’ – you are going to, by definition, become stronger at the things you place your attention on and weaker at anything not within that sphere of attention. Since time on this planet is short, if you try to be good at everything you become good at nothing. My observation has been that the people at the top of their game haven’t tried to be more Intuitive if they’re Sensor or more feeler if they’re a Thinker. They’ve, instead, focused on developing that Co-Pilot process (whether they realize it or not!).

Back to the point.

Each personality type LOVES their Driver process. If you ask someone to describe themselves, even if they know nothing about personality types they’ll end up spending about 80% of their time describing that process. Using our Driver process is a pleasure, often puts us in a flow state, and we naturally allocate a lot of time to it. We clock our ‘10,000 hours’ using the Driver process because we just like it so much.

The Co-Pilot process… not so much. For a couple of reasons.

First, it will be in the opposite attitude of our Driver process. “Attitude” is in-speak for “Introversion or Extraversion.” Meaning, if our Driver process is Introverted, then our Co-Pilot is Extraverted (and vice versa, as mentioned before). The world in the opposite attitude of our Driver is a less comfortable place for most of us.

As an Extravert, I can attest to the ‘inner world’ being far less easy for me to manage than the outer one. And I’ve yet to meet an Introvert that doesn’t regularly need alone time to recover from the outer world.

So, our Co-Pilot process forces us to visit that ‘other’ world. This is GOOD for us, but not always comfortable.

Second, it will also require us to either be more thoughtful about our decisions or it will require us to make a decision. For those that have a decision-making process as their Driver, it’s sometimes difficult for them to slow down enough to take in more information. And for those who have information gathering as their Driver, feeling pressured to make a decision can be torture.

personalityhacker_comfort-zone-graphicAgain, this discomfort is good for us. All growth happens out of our comfort zone.

So, while our Co-Pilot is a natural gift and preference, the exercising of this process can represent discomfort. If we’re used to indulging ourselves psychologically and emotionally, we just won’t go there.

I should probably make a note about the difference between using and exercising a process. It’s easiest to do so with an illustration.

If you pick up a golf club and hit a golf ball with it, that’s using a golf club. If you dig a 4.25 inch hole and attempt to get the golf ball into that hole from 290 yards… now you’re exercising that usage. You’ve set a measurable goal and can observe improvement. Exercise isn’t simply usage, it’s increasing skill and competency.

We’re all going to use both our Driver and Co-Pilot processes. And unless we’re very unhealthy, we’ll exercise the Driver process because it’s fun to give it challenges and watch it improve. However, our Co-Pilot isn’t as intrinsically rewarding to push toward excellence, so it often is in a diminished ‘supporter’ role.

As I mentioned before, the people at the top of their game – gymnasts, musicians, mathematicians, engineers, etc… – are sometimes so balanced you can’t tell which process is their Driver and which is their Co-Pilot!

(There are some that are so unhealthy you can’t tell their Driver process, either, but this isn’t due to Co-Pilot development. They’re usually too invested in their 10 Year Old process or ‘forced’ into their 3 Year Old process synthetically.)

So, to answer your question: YES. The Co-Pilot process is the key to the whole enchilada. The more developed it is, the more a person actively exercises the process, the more they’re in their Zone of Genius. (I’d copyright that, but it’s not that good.)

Hope that helps – thanks for the question!


Want to learn more?

Discover Your Personal Genius



  • Joy Ross
    • Joy Ross
    • February 28, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Hey, you just answered my question

  • Joy Ross
    • Joy Ross
    • February 28, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    I really identify with having structured environment. When my house or closet in in disarray is that because of my driver or copilot being in dissonance. Some times I test out introverted and sometimes extroverted?

  • Joy Ross
    • Joy Ross
    • February 28, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    Good reply!!!

  • Andreea
    • Andreea
    • December 28, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    I have exactly the same problem. I’m INFP too.

  • Eric Reed
    • Eric Reed
    • May 31, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Hi TS. I am a INFP also and have run into that same issue. It wasn’t til a mentor of mine had me do physical exercise that I started down the rabbit hole of understanding what was actually happening when my good intentions were not well received.

    What I began to understand over the last several years is that my attempts to heal or fix someone’s issues (no matter how well intentioned) can disrupt their balance and equilibrium. I now know that my intentions have also not been completely altruistic. Part of the reason I feel I KNOW how to help is I can feel someone’s pain or empathize with their situation. So it hurts ME and though it was unconscious, I was helping them so I could stop feeling their pain in addition to me caring for them and wanting to help them.

    We’re making a bunch of assumptions when we start healing, helping, fixing someone.

    1) We know what the problem is.
    2) We know how to fix the problem.
    3) The other person doesn’t know how to fix it.
    4) This problem is only bad for them and serves no positive or very little positive purpose in their life. And
    5) That they WANT to get rid of this problem.

    Sometimes people can’t see their problem but we can from our perspective. So we offer help because we love them or care for them or simply because we are kind. However, we aren’t “holding space” for them.

    I’ve just started learning of this phrase “holding space”. To truly do it, hurts, especially if you’re the type of person who feels others emotions. But let me say this. When my mom died, I would have hit or cursed out the person who tried to fix/help my grief. I don’t care if they tried to joke or distract me or whatever. I needed to go through that pain. There wasn’t anything for anyone to fix or say. It was a time to feel my pain. I know this is an extreme example that doesn’t seem to apply to most of the times we’re trying to help someone. But I think it does help to give a good perspective to take.

    If you truly want to help someone then sit with them first. Make sure they know you feel where they are at (physically, emotionally, mentally) and that you understand them. All of us are more likely to listen to someone that understands us. If we jump to fixing them we show we aren’t on their level. Think about it. If they could jump to fixing their problem, they would have already. Or maybe they don’t want to fix it right now. In either case we would understand that if we looking at things from their perspective.

    So I like using stories and examples. I apologize if some of what have already wrote is confusing. I’ve done my best. Let me give you an example of me “helping” out a friend a year or two ago.

    My friend felt that he has very few positive relationships with people in our area and that his life would be better if he moved away. He feels his family drags him down and that I’m one of the few people he even wants to be around. He felt that he needed to move.

    Now I’ve listened and talked to my friend for years and realize that much of his problem is his perspective he developed growing up with his difficult family experiences. I realized that he would likely have the same problems with “negative” people no matter where he moved. I suggested many other solutions I KNEW would help. He always came back to needing to live somewhere else.

    Well, finally a year ago, I got it. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t sharing my friends perspective. I was trying to help but I wasn’t trying to understand. He truly felt that moving was the best solution to his life problems. So, I told him one night, to go home and write down what he’d need to do so that he could realistically move somewhere. I told him I didn’t want him to move cause I would miss him but that if it made his life better I’d be happy with that. I also admitted to myself that sometimes relocation is just what someone needs to reboot their life. I told him don’t wait. Write down what he’d need to do won’t hurt his life in any way and would help him to start doing the necessary steps to relocate.

    A few days later, he stopped by my work. Writing down what he’d need to do made him realize he didn’t want to move. Now I truly think it’s my friends perspectives that cause his problems. But I help by trying to listen first. Have you heard that saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish feed him for a lifetime.” Well, I’m slowly learning that it applies to most things. My friend needs to learn to change his perspective for himself. Even if I gave him thet perfect advice and fixed his current problem, what about the next similar problem? And the one after that? The ones that come when I’m not around?

    It’s frustrating. To see people you care about struggle through things when we see the answer. But let me leave you with an example from a few days ago.

    My 3 year old son is learning to climb into his car seat and put part of his seat belt on. I watched as he struggled to pull himself into the seat the other day. He was having trouble because of the angle his legs were in. My impulse was to fix the angle of his legs but I merely waited and watched. Ready to help if he asked but allowing him to struggle. It was longer than he usually takes but he finally got it. As he sat down tiredly in his seat he proudly told me “I did it because I’m a big boy and see daddy, I’m Strong!”

    I struggle everyday with this issue. Do i offer to help? Will they appreciate my help? I know a few emotional and physical healing modalities. And many times I’m strongly moved to offer this help to friends and strangers. Sometimes its accepted. Sometimes its rejected. What if there was something for me to learn in both situations? It’s part of this crazy process we call life. I’m brought right back to looking at my son in his carseat. I’ve placed him in that seat many times because he asked me to help him up or he was too young to do it on his own. Looking at his proud smile I wonder why struggled with whether I should help him up or not. But its moments like this one when I realize that all the difficulty is worth it. I didn’t rob my boy of his struggle and his triumph and I didn’t rob myself of the big smile I had on my face as i told him that yes “I did see. Yes, you did it. And yes, you are strong.”

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.